Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party

This is a piece from An Phoblacht and is a review of the book The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party
By Brian Hanley and Scott Millar. I have not read the book yet, but I intend to, however I feel strongly that anybody who is interested in the future of Sinn Féin needs to look closely at the past of the Workers'Party. Their acceptance of the Northern State and attitude to the RUC is a warning to us about what could happen if we are not careful.


Book review
The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party
By Brian Hanley and Scott Millar.
Penguin Ireland.
ISBN 978-1-844-88120
Price: €21.99/£20

By Mícheál Mac Donncha

This book must rank as one of the most detailed and frank histories of any political party in Ireland or elsewhere. It tells the story of the bizarre political journey of the ‘Stickies’ from the split in the IRA and Sinn Féin in 1969 to the disintegration of the Workers’ Party and the departure of most of its leadership in 1992.

The book is primarily based on interviews with a range of members and former members of the Workers’ Party and ‘Official IRA’ and that is at once its strength and its weakness. The authors have put a huge amount of research into this and have spoken to dozens of people, giving a fascinating view from the inside of a highly secretive and conspiratorial political party. However, at key points, the absence of other perspectives is glaring. This is especially so in the coverage of the 1969 split where we get a very inadequate view of how it was seen by those on the other side of that divide.

The 1969 split was a disaster for Irish republicanism. Talented and committed leaders and activists went their separate ways and two Sinn Féins and two IRAs emerged at a time when the Orange state was collapsing and people in the 26 Counties were looking North as never before. Yet IRA Chief of Staff Cathal Goulding believed that his political project had such potential that it was worth allowing the Movement to split from top to bottom.

We need a detailed history of the build-up to the split during the ‘60s and how it happened and hopefully one will appear in due course. But even from the partial account given here, it is plain to see that Cathal Goulding and Seán Garland were set on a course that they were determined to follow, come what may. They disregarded both the widespread internal opposition to their direction and the events which were changing Northern politics fundamentally. Ironically, while the Provos were castigated as militarists, it was Goulding and Garland who used the military structure, discipline and conspiratorial tradition of the IRA to force through profound ideological changes that made a split inevitable.

When the crisis broke in the North and nationalists came under attack from the RUC and loyalists in August ‘69 the IRA was in a poor state to defend nationalist areas. The book makes clear that the IRA was still active and certainly did not “run away” but it had been allowed to deteriorate and dissatisfaction with the Dublin leadership over this issue was a key factor in the split.

More profoundly, the Goulding leadership had a flawed analysis of unionism and the flaws would become clearer as time went on. Ignoring the harsh realities of division brought about by 50 years of sectarian Unionist government, the Goulding leadership’s Northern policy was based on the belief that working-class Catholics and Protestants could be united on social and economic issues while pretending not to see the elephant in the room – the question of partition and British rule. They supported the retention of unionist majority rule at Stormont on the basis that this would lead to left/right politics in the North.

As time went on this blindness to reality developed into a political perversion so that, by the 1980s, the ‘Official IRA’ and Workers Party in the Six Counties were collaborating with the RUC, acting as informers within the nationalist community, and colluding with loyalist paramilitaries in criminal rackets. They were venomous in their opposition to the H-Block/Armagh campaign and the hunger strikers. They welcomed the use of ‘supergrasses’ by the RUC and, ironically, given Garland’s present predicament, supported political extradition. Such was their hysteria that British Labour Party conference delegates who went to hear Gerry Adams speak in 1983 were described as “ghouls” who would be “equally at home with the Yorkshire Ripper”.
The Sticks remained totally marginal in the North but in the 26 Counties they had an influence far beyond their numbers. With members in the trade union leadership and the media, the Sticks performed a very useful role for the political establishment. They provided a pseudo-left-wing critique of republicanism which complemented Government censorship of RTÉ. In the Irish Times in Dublin and the Sunday World in Belfast their journalists kept the anti-republican line while ensuring favourable coverage for the Sticks.

They were now deeply partitionist and strident in opposition to even the mildest forms of Irish nationalism. But the further they went in their denunciations of Sinn Féin and IRA ‘terrorism’ and in support of British repression, the more glaring became the contradictions in their own position. For, as this book makes clearer than ever before, the ‘Official IRA’ was still very much alive. It ran all kinds of robberies and rackets North and South to fund the Workers Party and, though it had declared a ceasefire in 1972, it had been responsible for widespread violence, not against British forces, but in feuds with the IRA and INLA, and in enforcing its presence in nationalist areas.

By the late 1980s the ‘Official IRA’ was known as ‘Group B’ and was still involved in ‘Special Activities’ to fund the party. When the RTÉ programme Today Tonight (formerly a hotbed of Sticky influence) and Magill magazine exposed much of this, ‘Group B’ resorted to threats to the journalists.

The collapse of the Soviet states caused another ideological crisis for the Sticks who had followed a strong pro-Soviet line since the mid-70s. The party was now divided between those who maintained what they saw as democratic socialism, as well as favouring the retention of ‘Group B’, and those, mainly around the party’s TDs, led by Proinsias de Rossa, who wanted to jettison ‘Group B’ and move closer to the social democratic politics of the Labour Party. (Both sides remained vehemently anti-republican). When De Rossa’s faction could not turn the party around in 1992 he split to form Democratic Left which later merged with the Labour Party and eventually took over the leadership of that party. Both the last (Pat Rabbite) and the current (Eamon Gilmore) leader of Labour are ex-Sticks.

Despite the title of the book, and notwithstanding that many of them may have been sincere revolutionaries, the Sticky project was not the revolution and the revolution is not lost. It has yet to be won and, in winning it, lessons can be learned from the rise and fall of this now defunct political force.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Coca Cola - The real thing when it comes to respecting workers

Below is an e-mail I received from Pól Ó Deoráin. He had received it from a worker invoved in the current Coca Cola dispute in Dublin. I have also included a video made by the strikers.

The complete disregard that Coca Cola has shown for its employees is reflected across the country in cases such as Tomas Cook, Dublin Docks etc and working people need to stand together, not only to protect jobs, but also pay and conditions.

I strongly believe that what we are seeing now is a taste of what is to come in both the public and private sector and Sinn Féin must continue to stand with workers in such struggles on both sides of the border.

A Chara

A neighbour sent this to me. He is on Strike in Coca Cola

Now entering my fourth week of strike duty at the Coca Cola HBC’s Ballycoolin plant. A day that myself and my 60 work mates thought we would never see. 18 of us with fixed term contracts joined Coca Cola HBC over a year ago with the promise of permanent employment. How wrong were we? How sad and disappointed are we, as most of us left full time employment to join Coca Cola HBC thinking it would be a job for life?

We were notified recently of the company’s proposal to outsource all jobs in distribution. This will affect over 50 people immediately in Dublin. There are also depots in Cork and Tuam to consider who have no futures. 130 people in total will be affected.

SIPTU balloted staff for strike action with an over whelming “YES” majority. However, some of the people who voted in favour of strike have now returned to work. They went from “YES” to looking at us with disgust as they pass our picket each day. Our protest seems to be only a major annoyance to them. Imagine how we feel. What we strike for now will ultimately benefit them in the future. What little thanks as they could be next.

We believe a company who has made over 200 million profit in the first half of this year are most certainly in a position to keep all staff employed. They openly admit that outsourcing is the cheapest way forward, totally at our expense.

We protest about our 45% to 70% pay cuts and loss of pension rights for staff, only if the third party companies offer positions to us. It is supposed to be a transfer of undertaking, where staff are transferred with the same salaries and same pension rights. Pay cuts of that level are totally unacceptable in modern Ireland with such a high cost of living. A long bleak future of unemployment for the unsuccessful. The average 10% pay cut the majority of Irish people had to take would be most welcome.

Gokhan Bilgic managing director of Coca Cola HBC told the staff we had the highest output per man and that we set a high standard for all distribution points to follow. He was very happy, however this was not enough.

This is the first all out strike Coca Cola has seen in its 50 year history in Ireland. Our pickets are 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We fight for the right to be treated fairly and for our hard work to be recognised and appreciated.

Michael Kerrigan, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.
September 18, 2009 5:12 PM

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

As an Irish Republican my politics and my ideology compels me to engage with those of opposing political viewpoints, I am committed to doing that

This is a piece from Niall Ó Donnghaile the Sinn Féin Representative for Pottinger / East Belfast and Sinn Féin Press Officer in the Assembly. I have posted pieces from Niall's blog here before and am happy to do so again. Niall's site is an excellent insight into the daily working life of a dedicated Sinn Fein activist and as such is well worth a read.

The main thing I respect about Niall's is his continual efforts to reach out across the divides that exist in the North. This difficult and challenging work must be seen as a crucial part of the party's work and Niall and other people's work on the ground sets an excellent example of what Sinn Féin is and must be about. As he says in the piece below, " as an Irish Republican my politics and my ideology compels me to engage with those of opposing political viewpoints, I am committed to doing that, especially in an area like our own in East Belfast."


Last night I attended the latest in a series of panel discussions, jointly organised by the Short Strand Partnership and the East Belfast Mission.

The first was held in the Mission on the Newtonards Road and was entitled ‘Constitutionally different – politically similar’ and then Sinn Féin Mayor of Belfast Tom Hartley and the PUP’s Dawn Purvis were on the panel, the second discussion was held in the community centre in the strand and was entitled, ‘Civil Rights or Civil Unrest’, this time you had Fergus O’Hare, Francie Molloy, Roy Garland and Paul Bew.

More on that here

Last night the discussion centred on the issue of parading; on the panel this time were to authorities on this matter, Sinn Féin MLA for north Belfast Carál Ní Chuilín and senior Orangeman and member of the Strategic Review on Parading, Mervyn Gibson.

While you could get into the minutia of each discussion I don’t think it serves any great purpose; the discussion are had, they are always courteous, civil, tempered and most importantly, honest.

Each one has given me on a personal basis a tremendous amount of consider and think about, not just as a Republican or a member of the Short Strand community but as an individual.

Much like the previous two, last night could have gone on for hours (although obviously people wanted to catch the end of the soccer matches!!) and I think people leave in the realisation that while these discussion aren’t going to suddenly change the world, they do contribute immensely in our endeavours to understand and respect each other.

I am delighted as an Irish Republican that a bus load of people from the Protestant/Unionist/Loyalist community can freely enter the Short Strand and have these discussion; I am equally humbled that I too can now head up the Newtonards Road and have similar discussions in those areas; in a very small way, but deeply recognised by those who take part, it is an indication of just how far we have moved.

I look forward to the next discussion which no doubt will be yet another worthwhile experience for all involved.

A special word must go to Joe and Gary who put so much into organising and facilitating these events; go raibh maith agaibh.

As I have stated on this blog previously, as an Irish Republican my politics and my ideology compels me to engage with those of opposing political viewpoints, I am committed to doing that, especially in an area like our own in East Belfast.

As Carál rightly said last night I’d sooner take the most die hard and have the conversation with them, because ultimately that is where we need to end up anyway!!

Almost immediately after the violence that flared on our streets at the beginning of the month, I and others from Sinn Féin, were on the Newtonards Road, granted it might have been a slightly more ‘heated’ discussion than last night but not by too much. I think there is realisation, as we continually seek to move out of conflict that we can leave the politicking and the cynical, brass neck media opportunities to others; we’ll get things resolved together, without being ‘wishy washy’ about this, but by talking and getting to know each other as people.

Go n-éirí linn!!

Friday, September 18, 2009



We must all be at the Garden of Remembrance in Parnell Square, at 1 pm to show our disgust at the corruption and xxx that is going on in this country


Corrigan Brothers ...The Nama Song

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The challenge for the left in Sinn Féin.

Below is a piece I received from tgmac who has an interesting blog at


Economics, like politics, requires the ability to manage the inherent tensions within any man made system. The stormont system requires even greater management of the tensions.

Yes the leftist voice in SF has lost some momentum but that's because the SF Left hasn't come up with a plan. It's up to the Left to devise the strategies and the tactics to create a plan that will have the support of the electorate and meet some hard-wired socialist goals.

Those socialists who wish to return to a 19th century analysis and have another go at meta-national command economics are free to do so. What I see among many such Socialists is a wait and see attitude; hoping that people become poorer, angrier and thus more open to returning to this type of system. It's obvious they are gaining some traction. Time will tell. Let'em at it.

I'd rather assist a party that is trying to do something on the ground. Talk's cheap. It's up to the SF Left to organise their camp. It's getting easier as we see those who espouse the command economy type of analysis leaving. This leaves the road open for a new, verifiable and wholely progressive Socialists policies to be adopted.

And when I say I hate the exclusivity doctrine (whether it be fat-cat capitalists or adherence to a biblical like economic doctrine based on personalities) I mean it. I'm not interested in what parties, doctrines, Higgins, Adams or any other person has to say about Socialism on a national stage. The Left either lives it and tries to persuade others that we have a coherent and sustainable policies that work in the real world or history makes us irrelevant.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Took this piece from the Balbriggan Sinn Féin website.
I follow a number of such sites, but this one is one of the more active local Sinn Féin sites. If you know of another good local one please let me know.

Personally, I feel that this is an area the party needs to work on and I will be happy to put up good examples for others to look at. The Internet is clearly a great potential resource for the party and we should be using it as effectively as possible.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Will Fiann Fáil ever stop lying to us?

Fianna Fáil are continually trying to blame the disastrous economic situation in this country on unforeseeable world economic circumstances and in no way is Fianna Fáil, Blessed Bertie or Biffo to blame for what the nasty big world has done to Ireland. However, the fact that our economy was being run in a reckless, criminal manner was foreseen by one party, Sinn Féin. We saw the crazy government fuelled property boom for what it was and we called on the government, and other parties, to take action. We called for an end to tax and PRSI cuts because the policy was economic madness. Were we listened to? No!

Sinn Féin repeatedly tackled government Ministers regarding their failure to take any measures to stop the escalation of house prices. We questioned government Ministers regarding the development of a property bubble and we regularly and consistently warned the Government that the reliance on property and consumption taxes could not be sustained and that the tax base needed to be broadened.

We called for the ending of tax breaks which were fuelling the property bubble and for the introduction of a tax on second homes to curb growing house prices which were seeing investors price first time buyers out of the market. We opposed the cutting of capital gains tax on the basis that it would fuel the property bubble and make it more profitable to speculate in property than to run a business.

Our record is clear, Sinn Féin opposed proposals by Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and Labour in advance of the 2007 election to cut taxes on the basis that taxes had already been cut to unsustainable levels and we opposed proposals to cut PRSI on the same basis. Any examination of Sinn Féin’s record in the Dáil from 2002 - 2007 in particular will verify these facts. All of our TDs are on record raising these points on numerous occasions.

Unfortunately, rather than consider or even listen to our views, we were described as economic illiterates and disregarded. We now see the consequences of that attitude in the extent of the economic recession.

Now once again they are asking us to believe their lies. They claim NAMA is the only way to solve the banking crisis. They say that cuts to public expenditure are unavoidable and the recommendations of An Bord Snip and the Taxation Commission are the only way forward.
The fact is that Fianna Fáil has neither the mandate nor the moral authority to implement NAMA, the McCarthy report or the Commission on Taxation report. They cannot be trusted, nor do they have the competency, to steer this economy in the right direction and a general election should be called immediately.

We in Sinn Féin believe that the economic crisis created by Fianna Fáil must be tackled, but that those who can afford to pay must be asked to pay the most. Those who are either unemployed, ill, in full time education, have special needs, are raising families on modest incomes etc, these people should not be asked to suffer for the failures of Bertie, the property speculators, the greedy bankers and the super rich. No those that can afford to pay should help us through this crisis.

Posted by BALBRIGGAN SINN FÉIN at 12:28 PM

Friday, September 4, 2009

The resignation of Domhnall Ó Cobhthaigh

The decision of Domhnall to resign his seat as a Sinn Féin councillor and quit the party to join the Socialist Party must be seen as a massive wake up call for Sinn Féin as a whole and the left of the party in particular.

For me it is no massive shock when somebody leaves the party because they disagree with a party's direction or wish to pursue other interests etc. These things happen in politics and are nothing new. However, when somebody of the calibre of Domhanll leaves, does so with such dignity and chooses to join the Socialist Party then those of us who consider ourselves left wing need to take a long look at why he has done this.

With regard to the above press release I would point out that I have on this site expressed my own concerns regarding the nature of the Stormont assembly and the contradictions I see in us operating in a compulsory coalition with right wing parties. Domhnall echoes these concerns and asks how can this set up work in the interests of working class unity and pushing left wing policies.

He also points to the need to fight back against the cuts in public expenditure which are inevitably coming. At present we in the 26 are heavily involved in fighting the cuts agenda and I personally am not prepared to allow the party to fight cuts in the South, whilst imposing them in the North.

He goes on to say,
"I am convinced that change can only come about if working, unemployed and young people themselves organise to challenge the status quo. We have seen the power of effective local campaigns in fighting against health cutbacks and against the imposition of water charges. ..... Working people must organise themselves against cuts and to defend jobs."

These are statements I fully support and all this leaves me and others on the left asking why then did Domhnall leave the party and why should I choose to stay?

For me Domhanll has shown himself to be an honourable and honest man. He has not like others simply taken his Council seat with him despite it having been won under a Sinn Féin banner. He has moved to the Socialist Party, but he accepts the electorate voted Sinn Féin and he has acted accordingly.

He has also not spoken of his ex colleages in a completely negative manner, but rather stuck to the issues as he sees them and put forward his case for moving to the Socialist Party.

So why should I and others stay in the party? I'll give some of my reasons;

1) I have met many many brilliant activists within the party and I refuse to believe they will allow Sinn Féin to go in the direction Domhnall seems to feel the party will inevitably go

2) I beleive that the current debate within the party in one which the left will win and the party will recommit itself to socialist principles and policies.

3) I believe the current Stomont set up will be temporary and Sinn Féin will ensure the current compulsory coalition system is ended and as a result real cross community politics will be in a stronger position to develop.

4) Sinn Fein has a potential unmatched by any other party in Ireland. It has a history of struggle which makes it more prepared than others for the struggles ahead. It has a 32 county structure unmatched by any other party, and if we truely commit to demanding real change then I feel we are in a better positon than anybody to ensure that that change comes about.

These are some of the reasons I beleive Domhnall was wrong to leave the party, however i am aware that the concerns he has are real and I am aware that his analysis may prove to be correct if the left of the party does not organise and put forward coherent positions. The next two to three years will see if I am correct in my hopes for the party.